Senate Sets Up Panel to Probe Buhari over N30 Trillion Ways and Means

•Lawmakers to investigate anchor borrowers’ programme, $2.4bn forex scam

Sunday Aborisade in Abuja

Senators yesterday constituted an ad hoc committee to probe the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari over the N30 trillion Ways and Means Loans Advances from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which was approved by the Ninth National Assembly.

The federal lawmakers lamented Nigeria’s current social and economic crises and blamed it on the borrowing culture of the Buhari’s administration, which they described as reckless.

The Upper Chamber expressed their disappointment during a debate on the report of the Joint Committee on Banking, Insurance & Other Financial Institutions (BIOFI) Finance; National Planning; Agriculture and Appropriation.

The panel’s report was based on its members’ interaction with the federal government’s Economic Management Team on the state of the economy.

The interactive session was held last week.

Chairman of the joint committee, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, who presented the report explained that the ways and means loan was one of the major factors that caused the current economic hardship.

Abdullahi, a Peoples Democratic Party senator representing Kebbi North, advised the federal government to settle the N30 trillion debt in order to reduce money supply.

The lawmaker also urged the CBN to ensure that beneficiaries of various intervention programmes who failed to utilise the funds judiciously should refund the monies appropriated to them.

The Committee in its report frowned at monetary policy under Buhari especially the Ways and Means Advances, which it maintained instigated the current inflationary pressures on the nation’s economy.

Senators took turn to debate the report and condemned the reckless financial malfeasance under Buhari.

The red chamber in adopting the joint panel’s report, consequently resolved to set up an ad hoc committee, to carry out investigation into what the N30 trillion Ways and Means were spent on by the immediate past government since details of such spendings were, allegedly deliberately not made available to the National Assembly.

The adhoc committee which would be constituted today would also probe the N10 trillion expended on the Anchor Borrowers Programme.

It would equally probe the $2.4billion forex transaction out of $7 billion obligation made for that purpose as well as other intervention programmes.

Chief Whip of the Senate, Ali Ndume, in his contribution, said details of the Ways and Means Advances were not presented to the Ninth National Assembly for proper scrutiny.

He referred his colleagues to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended, which states that the National Assembly has no power to review expenditures made after approval, by ministries, agencies and departments of government.

He said, “Mr President, I was not part of the plenary that gave the nod for Ways and Means but the detail of funds spent were not provided.  This is illegal.”

Deputy Senate President, Barau Jibrin who incidentally was Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation in the Ninth Senate, corroborated Ndume’s submissions.

He also said that details of the expenses were not made available to the Parliament.

He said, “It was approved for emergency, when they were brought, it was due to emergency.

“They told us that it was urgent. We said we are going to pass it but that they must bring the details which they never did.”

President of the Ninth Senate, Ahmad Lawan, who led the National Assembly to approve the alleged illegal expenditures, however expressed strong reservations about the lawmakers’ decision to investigate the Ways and Means Advances.

He clarified that the Senate under his leadership approved N22 trillion, not N30 trillion which the report of joint 10th Senate Committee stated.

The former Senate President claimed that the probe of the Ways and Means advances would not serve any useful purpose.

He insisted that what was paramount in the minds of Nigerians was how to put food on their table.

“If we have a ways and means that is N30 trillion today, that means something happened between then and now and it is for the National Assembly to find out what happened,” Lawan said.

He, however, urged his senator colleagues to conduct investigation into the approval and disbursement of funds and execution of projects under the ways and means advances.

Lawan said, “If there were expenditures done wrongfully in contradiction to the provision of the constitution, the National Assembly could look at the expenditures and if sanctions were needed for unlawful, wrong or unauthorised expenditures, the National assembly can provide the sanctions. 

“Nobody in this chamber should suggest that we should not look into anything that we feel is in the public interest but let me say this very clearly, what Nigerians want today is food and security. How are we going to provide food for Nigerians and protect their lives,” he added.

Akpabio, however noted that the nation was experiencing economic challenges because of illegal financial transactions undertaken by the previous administrations.

He said, “We are where we are today as a result of illegal things and I think it is necessary that details of Ways and Means be provided.”

Apart from the Ways and Means advances, the Red Chamber also resolved to investigate other interventions such as the N10 trillion Anchors Borrowers Programme financed by the CBN.

The joint Committee recommendations read in part: “The government should prioritise liquidating the N30 trillion Ways and Means obligation of the federal government through a quicker resolution mechanism than the current securitisation arrangement over a period of 40 years.

“In addition, the CBN should put in place measures to ensure the repayment of various intervention programmes by the beneficiaries after a thorough evaluation of their performance. These will help reduce money supply.

“Also, the ‘quasi-fiscal measures totalling N10 trillion of which the Anchor Borrower Programme is a major part should be further interrogated by the Committee.

“This is with a view to plugging loopholes in future development finance activities of the Bank.

“To promote fiscal discipline, the Senate urged the Tinubu administration to reduce government expenditure to lower fiscal deficits and promote fiscal sustainability.

 “In this connection, exchange gains from naira depreciation should be used to wind down government deficits at all levels rather than expand the size of the budget.

“The federal government should provide interventions in the area of food and transportation to alleviate the suffering of vulnerable Nigerians and mitigate the impact of economic challenges.”

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